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PRO 356 Electric

Nothing Compares to EBM for the Electrical Estimator

Donnie Gates first became familiar with Electrical Bid Manager (EBM) in 1995, several years before starting his own electrical contracting business. While at his former company, Gates was looking for an electrical estimating program for computers. He saw EBM featured in an electrical contractor magazine and decided to check it out.

“After reviewing the program I told my former boss that without question this was the one to purchase because it was so user-friendly,” says Gates. “And from day one I've been sold on EBM 100 percent. So when I went into business for myself in 2002, I naturally purchased the EBM program.”




Gates co-owns PRO 356 Electric with his wife. He is the Vice President, his wife is President, and his daughter works in the office. The electrical contracting company, based in Kinston NC, does 90 percent commercial, 10 percent industrial and no residential. With 25 employees in the field and four office personnel, the business has gross sales of nearly $3.5 million per year. Gates’ wife and daughter handle all payroll and A/R accounts. A project manager handles most of the projects, while Gates does all of the estimating and some project managing when needed.

“EBM has the infrastructure to allow you to ‘phase’ relative material together and send it out for quote before bid day to know the ‘true’ price of the main cost items on a given project, such as conduit and conductors,” Gates says. “Thus, you can ‘shave’ some monies out when you see what you have in the EBM program versus what the local suppliers will sell it for in lump sum.”

Gates purchased Electrical Bid Manager Plus Network when he started his own business in August 2002, and today he owns three licenses of the electrical estimating software. At the same time he bought EBM Plus, he also purchased EPIC Quarterly.

“I mainly like to use the EPIC program to keep my conduit and conductor pricing in line,” states Gates. “It does a good job of keeping up with the national market and the fluctuation of these two items.”

EPIC is an add-on to EBM that keeps a contractor’s EBM database updated with current pricing. If a contractor doesn't use EPIC with EBM, they have to manually update the pricing on all of the electrical items in their bid. Doing this task manually can be difficult and time-consuming, because the price fluctuates for many items. This is especially true of items made from copper and oil since the current market value depends on the price of copper and oil, supplier inventory, purchase size and overall volume.

“In October 2012, I purchased On-Screen Takeoff (OST),” Gates says. “I figured if Vision InfoSoft decided to incorporate it with their estimating programs then it had to be a good fit for me. And, OST has not let me down. These two programs work awesomely together and they save you so much time! You can quickly download a set of plans to OST, and you can export the EBM database quickly into OST as needed. It even allows you different colors when you are doing counts or linear foot runs of conduit feeders.”

On-Screen Takeoff (OST) is an add-on to EBM. Many contractors buy OST on day one, but others find the need for it after using EBM for a while. This electrical takeoff program, like PlanSwift, integrates with EBM and enables all the benefits of using electronic plans. Estimators can view a digital plan on their computer, count items and have them instantly become part of their bid in EBM.


On-Screen Takeoff for electrical plans


Gates explains that simply by the way OST and EBM work together he can download a set of plans within 10 minutes from a website to OST and immediately start a takeoff for that respective job. He points out that there is no need to worry about getting plans printed and picking them up.

“It is so awesome that you can export your EBM database as needed to the OST program which allows you to count and run linear footages on most items and then import it back to EBM to complete your takeoff as needed,” says Gates. “And, all of the default screens for items such as feeders, light fixtures, switchgear and devices, have everything you need to do an efficient takeoff and do it quickly.”

Gates has used EBM to win dozens of bids. One example of a recent job that he got with the EBM program is a two car dealership project located side by side.

Pro 356 Electric - Dealerships project

PRO 356 Electric won a side-by-side $1.2 million car dealership electrical project with Electrical Bid Manager.


“This was a $1.2 million project for us,” Gates says. “We beat the competition by 1 percent.”

According to Gates, “If you are looking for a user-friendly electrical estimating program with all the bells and whistles that you need in order to do a complete takeoff, then look no further than these three software programs.”

Gates admits that through the years he’s had free trials on other electrical estimating programs and has even inquired about a few just to see if there was a better program to be found. But he states that, without a doubt, EBM is the most commonsense user-friendly program to be had, bar none.

“The designer of this program obviously must have worked in the field and understands what is needed to do a proper takeoff from every possible aspect of the project you may be bidding,” states Gates. “Other programs I have looked at on a trial basis simply do not design their systems with down to earth commonsense layouts as EBM does. Believe me, no other estimating program compares to Vision InfoSoft’s EBM program for the electrical estimator.”